Anglia Ruskin University to lead KEEP+ knowledge exchange project for SMEs

Anglia Ruskin University is leading an EU-funded project to help SMEs across the East and South East

Anglia Ruskin University is leading an EU-funded project to help SMEs across the East and South East of England to forge links with university and graduate expertise. - Credit: Archant

A partnership led by Anglia Ruskin University has secured £9.4million of funding to support innovation and growth among the region’s small firms.

The money, awarded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the East and the South East of England to benefit from a new programme of subsidised research and development support, co-ordinated by Anglia Ruskin.

The KEEP+ programme – the letters stand for Knowledge Exchange and Embed Partnerships – will connect SMEs to academic expertise and graduate talent, so helping enable SMEs to develop and launch new products and services.

Alongside Anglia Ruskin, KEEP+ involves nine delivery partners – the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA), the Universities of Essex, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Greenwich, Kent and Brighton, University Campus Suffolk and Norwich University of the Arts.

The programme will run for three years and will be open to SMEs registered and actively trading in the New Anglia, South East, Greater Cambridgeshire/Greater Peterborough and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas.

Among the benefits available are 12-week graduate innovation internships, three-way collaborative partnerships between businesses, graduate employees and academic experts and innovation networking events to bring companies together with third sector organisations and charities, local authorities and the NHS to explore market opportunities created by social and environmental change.

KEEP+ follows on from the successful Low Carbon KEEP programme (also funded by the ERDF) which created 85 new jobs and helped mnore than 200 SMEs in the East of England increase their competitiveness, productivity and profits.

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Professor Roderick Watkins, Anglia Ruskin University’s deputy vice chancellor for research and innovation, said: “Thanks to over £9m of ERDF funding, this new KEEP+ programme will deliver real and immediate benefits for regional businesses.

“We surveyed SMEs that took part in our previous Low Carbon KEEP programme and found that cost was the most significant barrier to innovation. Two thirds said that they will need support with innovation in the next three years and this new programme will deliver that support by supplying personnel with the right skills and experience.”

Professor Heather Laurie, pro-vice-chancellor, research (designate) at the University of Essex, added: “Businesses in the region want to innovate and this funding worth over £9m from the European Regional Development Fund will support them to grow their businesses through innovation.

“The new KEEP+ programme will help them to access the support, expertise and talent they are looking for.

“With our growing Knowledge Gateway research and technology park – which draws on our global reputation for analytics and data science and outstanding support for SMEs – we are perfectly placed to help businesses thrive through the KEEP+ programme.”